Evan X. Merz

musician / technologist / human being

Tagged "california"

Prayer of the Desert by Pete Martinez

Due to the air quality, they closed the pool this weekend, so Erin and I didn't know what to do with the girls. It occurred to us that we've never really taken them out to weekend yard sales before. So we looked up a few local yard sales and drove around to each one.

At the Eagles Club rummage sale, I found a storage container full of power tools on one side, and stacks upon stacks of framed prints on the other side. In my head I said, "I bet if I sort through all of this, I will find one piece that is worth taking home."

And boy was I right. Buried under empty frames, and some nice decorative pieces, I found this beautiful Pete Martinez etching.

I didn't know Pete Martinez off the top of my head, but when I saw the etching I knew it was better than all the other stuff in the storage container. It had a reasonable price of $125 on it, but they were selling everything for 75% of, so I got it for a cool $31.

Picture of the California artist Pete Martinez

Pete Martinez was actually Pedro Pablo Martinez. He was born in California in 1894, and he worked as a cowboy, ranch hand, and show rider for much of his life. He made his living driving cattle in the summer and creating art in the winter. He fought in the first world war, and retired to his own ranch in later life.

Jazz from California

Jazz isn't necessarily the first thing you think of, when you think of California. You might think of surfing, Dick Dale, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Hollywood. But California has a rich history in Jazz.

Don't forget that California made Benny Goodman a star, and made swing music into popular music. After the war, dozens of amazing soloists were made in California, including Dexter Gordon, Lester Young, Art Pepper, and Eric Dolphy. Household names like Dick Brubeck, Stan Getz, and Cal Tjader all started their careers in California.

I put together this playlist to celebrate the great jazzers from CA. Listen to the end to catch some more modern artists who stand tall with the rest of these greats.

A Sophisticated Provincial by Margo Alexander

There is very little information available online about the California artist Margo Alexander, and that is a shame. I was recently fortunate enough to pick up a small and interesting piece by her and I wanted to make sure to share what I knew about her online. I don't know the title of the piece, but it's one from a series she called Sophisticated Provincials, and they are still widely available at reasonable prices on ebay.

Margo Alexander was a muralist and printer who ran a large art studio in California in the first half of the 20th century. Here's what it says about her in Emerging from the Shadows.

In Los Angeles, she established her reputation as a muralist, creating custom murals for private homes and public buildings. As in her oil and watercolor paintings, her mural subjects included figurative, landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes. She also designed fabric, china, and table linens. By the early 1940s, she employed six full-time artists at her Los Angeles studio to assist with mural commissions and with her more commercial production of serigraphs, which she called "Sophisticated Provincials," which were created using a hand reproduction technique she developed that attempts to retain the spontaneity of an original painting. These were simply signed "Margo."

What I think is interesting about Alexander is that she was commercializing screen prints in a way very similar to what Andy Warhol claimed credit for decades later. She was pumping out these small, semi-handcrafted works that were designed for the mass market. It's true that these small, quaint scenes haven't withstood the passage of time as well as Warhol's, but I still think she needs to be put in the same context as Warhol.

Here's the piece I picked up for $8 on ebay. It's only about three inches square.

A Sophisticated Provincial by Margo Alexander

A Sophisticated Provincial by Margo Alexander

Here's what it says on the back, if you're having a hard time reading the small print.

Widely recognized for the dash and color of her original paintings and murals, this popular western artist strove to develop a hand-reproduced technique retaining all the piquant spontaneity of her prized originals.

THIS, with the support of her associates, Ann Bode and a talented staff, in the seclusion of her tree-covered old-world studio, she has achieved and proudly presents herewith her original hand-replica of...

I can't read what was originally in the box at the bottom, so I can only speculate at the title.

I hope that by putting this online I can preserve some memory of an artist who was successful enough to run her own store in Los Angeles for decades.